When Rocco’s mother signed up to Facebook, it became apparent she would need friends. It is, after all, a social network. One needs to be social. And if, as in Rocco’s mother’s case, one isn’t particularly – it comes to pass that necessity must be the mother of invention.
Rocco’s mother’s friendless state wouldn’t have mattered a hoot if she hadn’t, in a fit of boredom and curiosity one random afternoon, started to play one of the online games. She was perfectly happy being insular and posting pithy status updates which nobody ever read or cared about. She could have continued this way ad infinitum – and indeed, should have done so with gay abandon. After a while, however – or a few whiles, anyway – it also became apparent one needed friends and neighbours in order to progress in the games. And at that point, Rocco’s hapless mother lost the plot completely – which was the moment of madness resulting in Nigel’s birth.
There are probably rules and laws governing Facebook which state members have to be bona fide human beings, using their real names and identities and swearing blind they haven’t airbrushed their profile photograph in order to look like Alan Rickman or the female equivalent. Rocco’s mother normally would not break laws even as petty as these – in fact, she would sooner poke her eye out with a rolled up Food-o-rama junk mail catalogue – but because she was aware other people had signed up pets, favourite toys, deceased ancestors and aspidistras in order to appear popular and, most importantly, to progress in games, she decided an imaginary friend was equally as bona fide as anything or anyone else (except, perhaps, Alan Rickman). Which was the root of the problem, really.
For Nigel, who burst into the world as an alleged archaeology student with a wicked and flirtatious nature, quickly evolved as a life force unto himself. Before Rocco’s mother knew it, he was chatting up women old enough to be his grandmother, making somewhat lewd and unecessary comments to Rocco’s sisters, and running virtually amok in cyberspace – untamed and untrammeled. Before very long, Rocco’s mother realised with desperation she had no idea how to trammel him – even telling him he didn’t exist was met with loud har har hars and protestations from others, (who should have known better), that they much preferred Nige to Rocco’s mother anyway, and if anyone was to be banished and exterminated, it had better be she, rather than he. Rocco’s mother realised with horror she was actually carrying out online arguments with Nigel. If the first sign of madness is speaking to oneself, which sign of madness is speaking to someone else who is actually oneself? The line between insanity and idiocy was becoming alarmingly blurred. While Rocco’s mother dug herself deeper into a mire of unreality, Rocco flourished and grew, gaining momentum, friends and admirers by the minute. It seemed he could not put a foot wrong, while Rocco’s mother appeared more bitter and twisted by the day, harassing and taunting Nigel in order to make him disappear up his own fake curriculum vitae.
Maybe the cruelest cut of all was the fact Nigel was far better at the online Facebook games than Rocco’s mother. His cafe was flooded with happy customers even when his shambolic cooking efforts left his counters empty and his stoves dirty. His YoVille houses were quirky and disgustingly filthy and fun to drop in on. Strangers requested Nigel’s friendship and were happy to send him farm animals, scented candles for his spaceship and chicken pot pies for his cafe. Rocco’s mother has warned Nigel he is absolutely NOT permitted to engage in online dalliance of any type whatsoever with random strangers. He has been told he must be completely honest with anyone who asks – and must confess to being merely a figment of a middle-aged woman’s imagination. Rocco’s mother is frightened she might log in one morning and find Nige has spent the night behaving in a most laddish manner, leaving broken hearts and shattered reputations in his wake. It keeps her awake at night, wondering what he’s doing while she’s sleeping.
The moral of this story is that it’s far, far better to have no friends at all. And that evil having been done, cannot easily be undone. And Rocco’s mother is becoming disturbingly aware she might find Nigel is drawn in indelible ink – and that she herself might not exist at all …